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Adult Learning: Theories, Assumptions, and Perspectives

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  1. Adult Learning: Theories, Assumptions, and Perspectives “The art and science of helping adults learn” Malcolm Knowles

  2. Adult Learning: Theories, Assumptions, and Perspectives • Survey (Jean) • Overview of Andragogy (Wade) • Different Views of Adult Learning • Transformative Learning (Jo) • Self-directed Learning (Sabrina) • Foreign-Born (Sheryl) • Afro centric (Jean) • Survey (Jean)

  3. History of Adult Learning Theory:From “Whatagogy?” to Andragogy • The Meaning of Adult Education by Eduard Lindeman in 1926 marked the beginning of adult education as a field • Adult educators began to look for a unique adult education knowledge base • European adult educators began to use the term andragogy in the 1950s • Andragogy finally surfaced and became part of the educational language in 1967 with Malcolm Knowles, a prominent scholar in the field of adult education. He writes:

  4. …in 1967 I had an experience that made it all come together. A Yugoslavian adult educator, Dusan Savicevi, participated in a summer session I was conducting at Boston University. At the end of it he came up to me with his eyes sparkling and said , “Malcolm, you are preaching and practicing andragogy.” I replied “Whatagogy?” because I had never heard the term before. He explained that the term had been coined by a teacher in a German grammar school, Alexander Kapp, in 1833… The term lay fallow until it was once more introduced by a German social scientist, Eugene Rosenstock, in 1921, but it did not receive general recognition. Then in 1957 a German teacher, Franz Poggeler, published a book Introduction Into Andragogy: Basic Issues in Adult Education...

  5. Andragogy Defined • The term andragogy is based on the Greek work aner (with the stem andr-) meaning ‘man not boy’ (Plato’s idea that adults continue to learn • The Modern Practice of Adult Education: Andragogy versus Pedagogy (1970) Malcolm Knowles • Knowles defines andragogy as the art and science of helping adults learn in contrast with pedagogy, which concerns helping children learn • Is Andragogy a learning theory or a set of assumptions?

  6. Theory • “A theory is a set of interrelated concepts that explain some aspect of the field in a parsimonious manner” (Merriam and Caffarella, 1989)

  7. Learning Theory: Four Major Lenses • Behaviorist – People’s behavior is a collection of habits. Individuals learn through positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. (Thorndike, Watson, & Skinner) • Subject-Centered – Primary teaching function is the selection of “lesson plans” containing the content and “right” answers. (Locke, Herbart & Hirsch)

  8. Learning Theory: Four Major Lenses • Constructivist – Knowledge is not simply “out there” to be attained; it is constructed by the learner. • Student Centered – students’ interest and needs must be integrated with subject demands – meaningful learning takes place as the abstract world of concepts connects to the real world of personal experience (Dewey)

  9. Five Assumptions of Andragogy according to Knowles (1973) • Self-Concept: Adult learners are directing their own plan. (teacher directed vs. self directed) • Experience: Adult learners bring an ever growing reservoir of experience and knowledge to the table. The traditional concept of the “tabla rasa” or blank slate does not apply to the adult learner. • Readiness to learn: Adults are focused and ready in a highly pragmatic way. Adults want to learn those things that will have a direct impact on themselves, their family, and/or work.

  10. Five Assumptions of Andragogy according to Knowles (1973) • Orientation to learning: Problem centered rather than subject centered. • Motivation: Adult learners are learning for a reason, and they push themselves from within. They are sparked by an inner source and have a sense of urgency about their learning. (internal vs. external motivation)

  11. Four Supporting Assumptions according to Dirkx, Lavin, and Pelavin (1995) • Diverse, active learners: wealth of experiences • Problem-oriented: pragmatic learners, seeking to improve their performance • Control of their own learning: voluntary learners who take seriously their decision to return to school. • Strong sense of self: varying degrees of self-efficacy, but sense of self plays a major role in their learning

  12. Andragogy: Theory or Set of Assumptions? • Defining questions: • What is andragogy and to whom does it apply? • Do some or all of the assumptions apply to children? • Are its assumptions too simplistic? • Does andragogy ignore the learning context? • Is it a teaching theory or learning theory?

  13. Andragogy: Theory or Set of Assumptions? • As the scholarly debate over Andragogy raged in the 1970s and 1980s Knowles become more open to criticism. • In 1980 Knowles stated: “I don’t see andragogy as an ideology at all, but a set of assumptions about learners that needs to be tested for different learners in different situations”. (The Modern Practice of Adult Education, 1980) • He also stated that pedagogy (teacher centered learning) and andragogy (learner-centered learning) existed on a continuum. • Jo will now take a look at Adult Learning through the lense of Transformative Learning.

  14. Transformative Learning • Transformation vs. Learning for Information • Philosophical Approaches: • Daloz: developmental approach • Freiere: emancipatory perspective • Boyd: extrarational approach • Mezirow: cognitive/rational lens

  15. Mezirow’s 10-step process • the disorienting dilemma • fear, anger, guilt or shame • critical assessment of assumptions about the world • realization that others have gone through what they are feeling • exploration of new roles, relationships and actions • planning a course of action • gaining knowledge and skills for implementing the plan of action • trying on a new role • becoming competent in the new role • the new perspective becomes a part of the person.

  16. The Lynchpins • Experience • Critical Reflection • Reflective Discourse

  17. Fostering Transformative Learning • Ideal conditions and practices • Psychological Type • Examples

  18. Self-Directed LearningL. Baumgartner (2003) Example – Tom Merriam and Caffarella (1999) have three definitions of self-directed learning: Goals a process a personal attribute Yale, 1828 Graduates should develop “...the skills necessary to continue learning throughout life”

  19. Models of Self-directed Learning • Sequential (Tough, 1991) • What, where, how, set deadlines, get proper resources, find time, increase motivation • Interwoven (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991) • Self-directed learning occurs when need is matched with opportunity • Instructional (Grow, 1991) • Describes 4 stages • From relying heavily on the teacher for guidance to taking full responsibility for learning

  20. Three Goals of SDL • To help learning become more self-directed • To foster transformative learning • To promote emancipatory learning and social action

  21. Self-Directed Learning • Donald Roberson (2002) • Ten older adults (at least 70) in South Georgia • Two interviews over a two day period (4-5 hours) • Questions • What is the nature of learning? • What is the process of learning? • What are the late life adjustments? • What is the impact of living in a rural environment?

  22. Findings: • Learning is exciting, fun • It begins with an interest • Various learning activities happen simultaneously • Rural : community of fellow learners, simple& peaceful lifestyle; predominately positive to SDL • Older adults have extra time for SDL

  23. Andragogy and Self-Directed LearningS.B. Merriam (2001) • How does Merriam compare andragogy and self-directed learning? • Does an adult learner need to be motivated to learn? • “…whereas a dependent learning needs more introductory material and appreciate lecture, drill and immediate correction, a self-directed learner can engage in independent projects, student-directed discussions, and discovery learning” (p.10). Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

  24. Foreign-Born Learners &the role of context • Context is defined in terms of the total experiences & activities engaged in by members of various social groups. • In addition to geographic space, this includes biographic, interpersonal, political, historical & sociocultural settings in which individuals are socialized, shaped & situated, and in which they interact. • Includes diverse & intersecting influences of race, class, gender, nationality, communities & the larger political & sociocultural milieu.

  25. Specific Questions • How did the specific historic, political, and sociocultural contexts in which Knowles was situated influence his construction of andragogy? • What are the ways in which contexts impact adult learners & their learning process? • Being heavily affected by one’s contexts, what characteristics would adult immigrant learners demonstrate? • To what extent does andragogy capture the characteristics of adult immigrant learners?

  26. The accountants will score the pair higher if they include a camel followed by a twist. Official who compiles scores from judges and computes placements. Spin on one leg, while the other leg is extended in the air parallel to the ice. Male lifts & throws his partner, then catches her on landing after she has performed a double or triple twist in the air. Prior Knowledge:Accountant – camel - twist

  27. “Class Matters” • Prior Knowledge • Motivation – voluntary or mandatory • Available resources/supports • Inter/Intra relationships • Group Dynamics • Caretaker, Know-It-All, Hitchhiker, Blocker, Omnivore, Inquisitor, Negotiator, Overachiever, Parliamentarian, Sage • Power struggle • Student/Teacher • Foreign Born • Hmong – need for specific instructional directions, respect & submissive attitude (Hvitfeldt, 1986). • Chinese – respecting authority, maintaining harmony, valuing study & degrees, and putting men above women (Pratt, 1991; Lee, 1999). • British – prefer learning through lectures & written assignments (Alfred, 2003) • Findings: • Instead of feeling self-directed, often felt lost when instructors focused too much on group discussion or did not lecture. • Had to renegotiate their identity, language, and voice in order to be recognized & heard in the U.S. classroom. • Approval & guidance by the instructor sometimes more critical than internal motivation.

  28. Guidelines for Cultural Diversity • Acknowledge individuals bring multiple perspectives to any learning situation as a result of their gender, ethnicity, class, age, sexuality, &/or physical abilities. • Recognize identification w/social group is multiple & complex. • Reflect & value the experiences of learners. • Pay attention to power relations inherent in knowledge production. • Be aware participants are positioned differently in relationship to each other & to the knowledge being acquired. • Acknowledge the power disparity between the teacher/facilitator & the students (Tisdell 1995, p. 90).

  29. Adult Learner Roles • Caretaker: Do we need a break? • Know-it-All: A comment for every idea and is willing to share • Hitchhiker: Passive learner, along for the ride • Blocker (Devil’s Advocate): contrary positions in the discussion • Parliamentarian: “Haven’t we extended our rule about time limits for group presentations?” • Sage: formal and informal power in the group • Clown: brings levity to the scene, humor to diffuse mounting conflict

  30. Afro centric View of Adult Learning Theory “To what extent are the values and assumptions that the concepts of andragogy and self-directed learning espouse culturally relevant in today’s field of adult education that values diversity and different ways of knowing and knowledge construction?” (Alfred, p. 2)

  31. It is necessary to understand the system of slavery in order to understand the learning of African Americans. “…slavery facilitated a transformation within the African American culture that forced Africans to think and do differently with not only what they knew but what new knowledge had developed… . It was in the struggle of an oppressive society that progress in education was made” (Flowers, p. 36).

  32. Afro centricity Theory • Sankoan - return to the source • Nommoic – the word, the power of the word • Maatic– truth, justice, harmony • Political Intellectual – political/economic or scholarly honesty/integrity • African Collective Memory-Perception – linked eternally • Explicit Locational – place relative to ideas, myth, history, symbols, etc.

  33. “The concepts of andragogy and self-directed learning tend to ignore the politics of positionality (power relations, race, class, gender, and ethnicity) and their influence on the teaching and learning dynamics in the classroom” (Johnson-Bailey & Cervero, 1997, in Alfred)

  34. The Message “To touch one’s sprit requires that the teacher be grounded in understanding the student’s history, language, culture, and lived experiences. In order to help the learner reach his or her potential in the learning environment, the teacher must make a connection to the affective and spiritual as well as the cognitive domains” (Alfred, p. 45).